Bold gamble: On announcement of Channi as Punjab CM candidate

The projection of Channi as CM candidate was forced on Congress, but is the right decision

The Congress has usually shied away from pronounced social justice politics, and in that sense, this is an audacious move which will have ripple effects in its strategy elsewhere too. Party leader Rahul Gandhi is driving a more accommodative caste politics, but the approach is evidently facing resistance from within the party and outside. Dalits in Punjab are not a homogeneous category. They are divided into 39 castes, clustered under different religions and sects locally called ‘Deras’. Mr. Channi belongs to the Ravidasia community of Dalits, which is a minuscule population of the total Dalits. Whether he can galvanise a larger politics of aspiration shared among all communities overlooked in the traditional power sharing models of the State remains an open question, but Mr. Channi does deserve the support he has found from the party. He has not been long enough in power to be judged for his track record as CM, but Mr. Channi is a good story teller and has a good story — which are essential ingredients for any successful politics. His prominence will in all likelihood set off reactions from Jat Sikhs and upper caste Hindus, considerable segments of whom have been with the Congress. Opponents of the Congress — the Shiromani Akali Dal-BSP alliance, the BJP-led alliance, and the Aam Aadmi Party — will all try to inflame the resentment among these communities to corner the Congress. The Congress is accused of playing caste politics by promoting a Dalit, and it is notable the rotation of power among the dominant Jat Sikhs for decades rarely caused such concerns. Perhaps that itself is proof that Mr. Channi deserved this chance.

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